Senior night occurs every season for the University of New Mexico Men’s Soccer team, but this one was unlike any other.
The night began with a show of solidarity between rival teams before a crowd of 1,556, the second largest crowd of the season for the Lobos. But in the end, the result was a familiar one for the 2018, and likely final, iteration of UNM Men’s Soccer.
“Their coach Chris Grasse is a class act,” head coach Jeremy Fishbein said about the moment. “Chris asked if just as a sign of solidarity they could join us. I asked our guys if they were good with it and they were. That’s kind of just been the outpouring all over the country, every college program. It’s nice.”
The game started off positively for the Lobos, as they controlled the majority of the possession for the first portion of the game. However, they weren’t able to create many chances until the 26th minute when Nick Taylor opened the scoring on a pass back from Matt Dorsey, as Taylor blasted a shot from well outside the 18-yard-box that sailed into the top left corner.
“I just think it was good team play,” Taylor said of the goal. “I think we wanted to come out with a lot of energy to start the game, obviously it’s a big night for the seniors so everyone was trying to give their all today and I’m just glad I could help out the team.”
Dorsey would add a goal of his own four minutes later, as a Nick Barreiro pass over the defense found his foot, and all he had to do was slip the ball past Marshall goalkeeper Paulo Pita, who came out to meet him. Dorsey slipped the ball past Pita and into the net for his second goal of the season and to give the Lobos a 2-0 lead.
“Well after the disappointing result, a lot of ups and downs, the first half I was at an all-time high,” Dorsey said. “My family has only been able to come out to a few games, so being able to score in front of them and all the fans that came out tonight was great.”
Things turned on the Lobos in the second half, as the Herd were able to capitalize on UNM’s mistakes, much as the Lobos opponents have done all season, and turn them into two goals. The first came in the 51st minute, when the Lobos turned over the ball just outside the 18-yard box and Marshall turned it into a breakaway opportunity that was put home by Gianni Bouzoukis to bring the score to 2-1.
Fishbein said that mental errors have haunted his team all year long,
The Lobos had a few chances in the second period and forced Pita into making four saves in the half on nine total shots. The Lobos more than doubled Marshall’s total number of shots with 16 compared to seven.
The Lobos were just one minute away from securing a 2-1 win over Marshall that would have secured a place in the conference tournament, when they conceded a foul on the edge of the 18-yard box that turned into an 89th minute set piece goal to tie the game at two.
UNM had a pair of chances in the two overtime periods but were unable to finish anything, and the game ended as a 2-2 draw. It was the first draw of the season for the Lobos, who are now 4-10-1 (2-4-1 C-USA) with one game left to play in the regular season. 10 losses is the most in a single season since Fishbein took over as head coach prior to the 2002 season.
The end of the season for UNM is the conclusion of a long journey that began last April when Fishbein first informed the public that Men’s Soccer was in danger of being cut. Many of the players are hearing from coaches at other universities who are recruiting them for the spring and beyond. But for now, Taylor said, the team’s focus is still on this season and finishing strong.
Whether the season ends next week against Charlotte, sometime in the conference tournament or beyond, will be determined next Saturday.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.